With this year’s beautiful summer coming to a close it has once again come time to dust the backpack off and get back into school mode. I had an amazing experience working with the BIObus team these past few months and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to share some of that experience with all of you. Since this is the my last blog of the season, I’ve decided to make this blog about one of the coolest parks I’ve come across so far (which is also conveniently the one I’m sorting through at the moment).
Kluane (Kloo-wah-nee) National Park is a 21, 980 km2 UNESCO world heritage site that lies in the southwest corner of the Yukon. If you’ve never been to that corner of the map, you might associate that area with no more than an unforgiving land of snow and ice. Although that wouldn’t be an entirely unfair association, Kluane is also home to a number of lush valleys, plants and wildlife with over 200 varieties of flora.
Sprawling throughout the park, the St. Elias Mountains form two large mountain chains that dominate the landscape: the Icefield Ranges and the Kluane Ranges. In the Icefield ranges, the park boasts Canada’s highest peak: Mount Logan. Mount Logan stands at an unbelievable height of 19,545 ft (that’s as tall as an 1800 story building!).
On the sides of these mountain ranges, moist air carried from the Pacific coast mixes with snowfall to create a heavy layer of ice. Over time, these layers of ice move down the mountain propelled by the immensity of their own weight. As they reach the base they form some of the many valley glaciers the Yukon is known for. One of these such glaciers, the Kaskawulsh Glacier, feeds Kluane Lake – the namesake of the park – with freezing waters that pool and eventually drain into the Bering Sea. The name Kluane was coined by early European settlers combining the original names given to the area by the Southern Tutchone peoples (Lu’an Man meaning “big fish lake”) and the name given by the coastal Tlingits ( Uxh-ani meaning “whitefish country”).
Surrounding the lake the northern boreal forest provides shelter to grizzly bears, Dall sheep, woodland caribou and of course many insects. One thing I was surprised to learn when investigating one of the intercept trap samples collected in 2014 was how far north bumblebees can live. Some species of bumblebee have been known to inhabit areas as far north as Ellesmere Island in the high arctic. The last time you were visited by a bumblebee you may have noticed the thick coat of fuzz that covers their abdomens. This fuzz is actually a collection of something called setae which are bristle-like hairs. In cold weather it’s this coat that allows them to regulate their body heat and survive where other bees cannot. Surprisingly the only continent where bumblebees are not found is Australia with the exception of Tasmania where they have been previously introduced.
Anyway, I hope this blog has been able to pique a bit of your interest in the wonders of the Yukon and I wish you all a safe and happy year!